Artist: A Sunny Day in Glasgow
Album: Sea When Absent
Label: Lefse Records
I put on A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s new album while hanging out in the kitchen with a couple friends – one is a sound engineer and the other a sound installation artist – as they prepared to host a dinner party. Unfortunately the closest sound system was some mid-low grade computer speakers on top of the fridge which technically had a subwoofer but which, in actuality, sounded more like a angry poodle. “Bye Bye, Big Ocean (The End)”, the first track of the album, dives abruptly into dense sonic foliage – the opening chords sound like an intentional homage/salute to My Bloody Valentine, making noteworthy attempts to occupy as much territory on the sound frequency spectum as possible. The computer speakers were woefully inadequate at expressing the song’s intricate, carefully sculpted textures. “It’s really busy; there’s too much going on,” commented my friends. I had to agree, at least in that context. ASDIG presently has six members, and there is a lot going on which does not get communicated well on lesser-quality speakers.
When the second, more melodically accessible track, “In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing)”, got underway, my friends’ response warmed: “It got better!” they said, seeming pleased; but by the fourth or fifth track they seemed to be growing increasingly bored and irritated with the music. “Too many voices,” was the general consensus.
Later, alone, I was able to listen again with my Shure 440 studio headphones, and was transported Star Trek-style into lushly blossoming synths, layered arpeggiators like neon flower petals adrift in a sudden gust of wind, like sunlight shimmering off distant teal waters, etc, etc. Clearly, Sea When Absent is meant for focused, attentive listening – not something to play while you’re working on something else; not background silence-filler.
Originally the “bedroom” project of founder Ben Daniels, ASDIG has since developed into a highly evolved, multifaceted organism, with unquestionably ambitious vision evident in the songs’ composition and production. It all seems as meticulously and intricately wrought as a clockwork Persian rug, and the sounds seem to invite closed-eye fractal patterns and a sense of smoothely cruising through futuristic anime cityscapes, face reflecting in the passenger-side window; beholden to an infinitude of possibilities, sighing hopeful melancholy. There are some really gorgeous moments, particularly when Annie Fredrickson and Jen Goma’s sleak, interlacing vocals weave around each other like dragonflies to create harmonies of crystalline-structured delicacy. There is unabashed use of stereo phasing, which seems to serve some purpose akin to syncronizing the brain’s hemispheres. It kinda tickles.
While there might be a few parts where it can drag a little, and can seem like it’s trying juggle too many lightsabers at the same time, Sea When Absent is actually a very compelling listen with high replay value; there are a lot of places to go within each song, and the music is obviously tailored to being heard with higher-quality headphones, where its detailed craftsmanship can be best perceived. Not for everyone, but a truly fascinating production for those appreciative of complexly woven sonic tapestries.